Lake County Board election: Four candidates compete for Audrey Nixon’s former seat

Emily K. Coleman
6–8 minutes

A four-way race for District 14 on the Lake County Board is pitting the appointed incumbent against a former board member, a North Chicago alderwoman and a local business owner.

The crowded Democratic primary in Waukegan and North Chicago’s District 14 follows the death of Audrey Nixon, the longest-serving member on the Lake County Board who, in 1982, became the first African-American woman to serve in that role.

Her seat was filled in June by Vance Wyatt, who at the time was the Foss Park District board president and a member of the North Chicago Public Library board.

Wyatt, 27, said the opportunity appealed to him because as a County Board member, he would be able to make an impact on a variety of issues he was interested in, including the jail population, youth employment and economic development.

“Being on the County Board allows me to affect so many different things that I have a passion about,” Wyatt said. “There are so many different portions of the county that (touch) people’s lives.”

To keep the seat though, Wyatt will have to top a field that includes North Chicago Ald. Bonny Mayfield, business owner Richard Otero Cintron and former Lake County Board member Angelo Kyle. No Republican filed to run in the district, meaning the Democrat emerging victorious on March 20 will continue unopposed to the November general election.

Kyle, 60, served on the Lake County Board from 1990 through 2012, when redistricting moved his Waukegan home into the district represented by Nixon, someone he said he considered a mentor.

Kyle said he wants to return to the County Board to see the completion of projects that he had participated in during their preliminary stages, specifically the Lake County Housing Authority’s completion of a new mixed housing development in North Chicago, as well as to assist North Chicago in pursuing a development project centered on a proposed U.S. Navy museum.

Kyle said he wants to, “finish the work that I started, to make sure that the work is complete, that the project is complete.”

This is Otero Cintron’s first time running for office.

Otero Cintron, 48, has been the owner of North Chicago Auto Service on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive for the last 12 years, a job that he said has taken him all over Lake County and put him in touch with many residents.

“I hear my community, all the problems, all the issues — ‘Richard, my car needs to be fixed, but I can’t pay you til next paycheck,’ the paycheck-by-paycheck living style that we have in this community,” he said. “It’s a beautiful town, but there’s a lot of suffering in this community.”

As a new member on the board, Otero Cintron said he knows he would have a lot of learning to do, but his focus would be on coalition building and reaching out to nonprofits and other local governments to find out what their needs are.

Mayfield, who has spent nearly seven years on the North Chicago City Council after a brief stint on the North Chicago School District 187 school board, said she’s always been interested in serving on the Lake County Board.

The 58-year-old Mayfield said she thinks she can leverage her municipal experience into making a difference at the county level, building a bridge between local groups and bringing resources like health fairs into the community.

As her accomplishments, she pointed to the creation of an annual public safety fair, designed to build trust and familiarity between North Chicago residents and their Police Department, as well as new rules for public meetings to make them more efficient and decorous.

She pointed to crime as one her top priorities, saying she would like to encourage more collaboration between the county and local police departments in addressing gangs.

“I think my big attribute is my passion, and my passion to work with everyone in District 14 to make sure that the people in this district get the resources that are available through the county,” Mayfield said. “I think that I can be a bridge to bring those resources to District 14 as a whole.’

Economic development was a core issue for several of the candidates, with Otero Cintron, Kyle and Wyatt all noting that the city of North Chicago lacks a large retail grocery store.

Wyatt said he’s been working with a nonprofit to establish a community garden that would fuel a small grocery store, something he hopes would show potential developers that the community can support new business.

Collaboration between private and public entities can lead to substantial changes, he said, pointing to Abbvie’s remodeling of the North Chicago Public Library. He also said collaboration between the various neighboring towns is really important.

“I understand that pressure of trying to get more money into their community, but it’s going to have that spillover effect as well,” Wyatt said. “I think we (should) come together and work as a consortium of communities and understand this is how we’re all going to make money.”

Wyatt said he’s also proposed a tax rebate program for businesses that hire people with criminal records, an idea that’s in the research phase with county staff.

Otero Cintron, a Puerto Rican immigrant who moved to North Chicago in 1989, said he’ll focus on outreach to existing businesses to encourage their longevity and potential new businesses to address any concerns they might have.

He said his main focus will be creating something for North Chicago’s kids and teenagers, perhaps a community center or something similar.

“We live in a world nowadays (where) as soon as our kids step out of the front door, we don’t what they’re doing, we don’t know where they’re at,” Otero Cintron said. “It’s the drugs, the street and the gangs (that can) get a hold of them first. I want to give them something … positive.”

Kyle, who organizes Afrofest and other events, said part of his focus would be on helping the city of North Chicago bring the proposed Navyseum and Sheridan Crossing developments to fruition.

Those projects could serve as catalysts for other economic development, Kyle said.

He suggested looking at federal dollars to fund infrastructure improvements, including work on roads and water and sewer lines.

Kyle, who worked at the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity before starting his own consulting firm, also pointed to his connections at the state and federal level that could helpful in facilitating other projects.

Kyle said he has had “not only the opportunity but the ability and the knowledge of how to initiate and complete a major economic development project in Lake County.”

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